Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)

At times the play's quirky elements get in the way of its touching study of grief

Arts Review

Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)

Blue Theatre, 916 Springdale, 684-3220

Through Dec. 18

Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.

For something to crumble, it needs to exist perfectly beforehand – the precrumbled version, the Platonic ideal – a reminder, after time and events have eroded our lives, of what used to be. A fall from grace necessitates the existence of grace.

History was perfect – it's the present day that has fallen to such depths. That's the daily existence of Janice and her mother, the central characters of Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), who are dealing very poorly with tragedy a year after the incident occurred. Janice's father has long since left the apartment in which they reside, but no repairs have been made in the family dynamic. Where once there were three, now there are two wishing there were three, incapable of communicating even that much to each other.

This familial desolation is the undercurrent of Crumble, although the surface of the play masks that meaning with meta characters, eccentricities, and dark humor. It's not just the family that's crumbling, see – their apartment is a dilapidated mess, and its corporal manifestation (played with dandy anger by Michael Slefinger) flits around his dwellers, demanding that they save him while pontificating about his elegant days of yore.

Add to that a crazy cat-lady aunt and 11-year-old Janice's foul-mouthed fantasy conversations, and as an audience member, you sometimes find yourself desperate for a real conversation between people. The only "real" conversations that Janice or her mother can have are with Justin Timberlake and Indiana Jones, respectively, the male manifestations of their desires. Although I understand that the purpose of the play isn't to provide a grounded focus on broken family dynamics, at times it felt like playwright Sheila Callaghan allowed the more abstract, quirky parts of her play to deviate from what really matters.

Poison Apple Initiative's production keeps the play moving at a good pace, and I never felt like I had to wait for the next beat. But I'm not sure if the Blue Theatre was the right venue for Director Bastion Carboni's staging. When the action moves above for bit parts, it's difficult to focus on and not well-lit. The main part of the Blue's stage is given over to the dilapidated apartment, but at times it feels like there could be more separation in that space.

I have mixed views about the way Crumble resolves itself and the agency it relates to grief: if not a deus ex machina, the happy ending requires some quite fortuitous events to transpire. Ultimately, Crumble is about the way we react to grief, not how we get over it. When it focuses on that erosion instead of its more eccentric elements, it can be emotionally provoking.

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Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), Poison Apple Initiative, Sheila Callaghan, Bastion Carboni, Michael Slefinger

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